After 'horrible' spring, Dwayne Allen knew he had to be in better condition

From ESPN - August 13, 2017

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Veteran tight end Dwayne Allen, whom the Patriots acquired from the Colts in a trade on March 9, has a well-earned reputation as a consummate pro on and off the field. He was the Colts' Ed Block Courage Award winner in 2014 and their Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2015.

It is obviously something he takes pride in, which is why he was hard on himself for what was a difficult entry into the Patriots' program.

"Spring was horrible," he told last week. "It's one of those things where you have an offseason where you are training, you are doing well, you are thinking that you have trained and prepared enough, and then you come into OTAs and it's like, 'Oh my goodness, I have not trained enough.'

"But thankfully, I was able to stick around and do some more training and get into a little better shape. Any time you are learning something new, a new offense, you are not performing at top speed, things seem a little off to you. That's exactly what it was for me."

Allen's willingness to stick around after the team's spring practices -- a time when most players return to their year-round homes -- provided him a foundation for training camp. While acknowledging that he still has a long way to go, he smiled when asked if he feels he's where he needs to be.

"I will say I am a little bit better than horrible," he remarked.

It shows on the field. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Allen, who is expected to fill the critical No. 2 role alongside Rob Gronkowski, is running better than he was in the spring and seems more comfortable with the offense. He did not play in the preseason opener this past Thursday, a game in which coach Bill Belichick held out most of the team's top players.

One thing that has stood out to the 27-year-old Allen during his five months with the Patriots is the focus on conditioning. Asked how eye-opening that has been to him, he said "very."

"I do not think you are ever in optimum conditioning," he relayed. "That's why we hit the hill. That's why we do other things to make sure that we are conditioning our legs, our minds, our lungs -- daily.

"It's just uncommon."

2. One indication that Patriots top draft pick Derek Rivers (third round, 83rd overall) has made a favorable first impression on the club is that he has been given one of the front-row parking spots reserved for those who are offseason award winners. Rivers, a defensive end from Youngstown State, was widely viewed across the NFL as a prospect with top-end intangibles. In the preseason opener, he played 36 of 57 snaps and rotated at end after Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler, which was a first glimpse of his current standing on the depth chart topped by Trey Flowers (who did not play).

3. Belichick held 37 players out of the preseason opener (some were not cleared to play/managing injuries, while the vast majority were coach's decisions), which was easily the highest total of any NFL team through Friday's preseason games. The Steelers, with 24, were next on the list while the Falcons (4) had the fewest players held out. Of the 20 teams that played preseason games this past week through Friday, the average number of players who did not play per team was 11.2.


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